Steamboat Round the Bend

This is “the last installment of Ford's Will Rogers trilogy.... In addition to Rogers, Steamboat features Berton Churchill as The New Moses, the best damn religious fanatic in a month of Sundays; the greatly misapprehended Stepin Fetchit (on whom more in a minute); and the Mississippi River steamboat race of our dreams. Steamboat is a fantasy, a privileged memory of an America we all just missed, told with enough exuberance and gusto to make us believe it - if only for 80 minutes. The River is one of the primal American Mysteries, and Ford is our best spinner of its lighter yarns....
“Despite its glories, Steamboat has been hurt of late, by changing attitudes toward one of our best black actors and comedians - a man with the great misfortune, above all else, to have chosen a name that has become associated with the worst racial stereotypes: Stepin Fetchit. I'm convinced that Fetchit's name is his most deadly sin; his performances in general (and in Steamboat in particular) are too brilliantly satirical (of both black and white people) to have gotten him into such deep trouble. Guilty liberals and angry radicals alike miss the point that Fetchit got the best of every white man he met because he was smarter, tougher and sneakier. Fetchit is a master jiver, and he always wins.”

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